July 18, 2012, 1:39 PM — Using Visa or MasterCard for donations to WikiLeaks was made possible again Wednesday when the French organization Defense Fund Net Neutrality (FDNN) started accepting payments via those credit card providers through the French Carte Bleue systems.
"Despite Visa and Mastercard cutting off payments to WikiLeaks, we have found some ways around the banking blockade, at least for now," WikiLeaks announced on its website.
Donations to WikiLeaks were blocked by MasterCard, Visa, Western Union, Bank of America and PayPal after it began to release some 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables in November 2010, making it hard for the organization to raise funds. With the blockade in place, WikiLeaks donations were reduced by 95 percent and cost the organization over $20 million, according to WikiLeaks.
FDNN decided to help fight the blockade upon WikiLeaks' request, said FDNN's president Benjamin Bayart in a blog post. "FDNN uses the French national banking system, Carte Bleue, to process these payments, rather than using Visa and Mastercard directly. So, for the moment, whilst we are still able to run this, we are enabling the public to use their credit cards to donate to WikiLeaks," he wrote.
FDNN is a French not-for-profit organization. Its main goal is to help fund projects and organizations involved in the defense of net neutrality, and more widely on the defense of free speech on the Internet, the organization states on its website.
The French credit card system Carte Bleue is coupled with the Visa and MasterCard systems globally, and Visa and MasterCard are contractually barred from directly cutting off merchants through the Carte Bleue system, said WikiLeaks in a news release. However, WikiLeaks expects that Visa and MasterCard will attempt to shut down this donation option when they can.
FDNN's Bayart, though, said in an email that financial companies in France most likely have no interest in taking a public relations risk by blocking payments to FDNN. French financial institutions are less related to the U.S. government than Visa and MasterCard are, and WikiLeaks has become less visible, he noted, adding that he did not expect a blockade. But if donations are blocked, FDNN will sue "whoever is necessary" in a French court, he said.
Neither Visa nor MasterCard responded to requests for comment.